One by one the hurdles to razing and cleaning up the old Gulf Pines Hospital site and putting the land on the tax rolls are falling away for Port St. Joe commissioners.
City attorney Tom Gibson reported last week that the Board of County Commissioners had voted not to pursue at this time a tax deed based on delinquent property taxes on the Gulf Pines site, which clears away one more obstacle.
With the BOCC willing to wait on the selling of the property to realize revenue from the back taxes – which would have to divided among the cities, meaning Port St. Joe would get some back – the lone obstacle to addressing the elephant in the equation are two private companies holding tax certificates.
By paying roughly $38,000, commissioners can satisfy those certificates.
The Internal Revenue Service, which has a $1 million lien on the property in lieu of back taxes, has indicated a willingness to discharge the property of any obligation.
“Once we get rid of the IRS we have a lot more options,” Gibson said.
The BOCC has agreed to waive the $75,000 it is owed to allow the city to move ahead on rendering the property suitable for the property tax roll.
Commissioner Rex Buzzett motioned, and commissioners unanimously agreed, to pay off the two certificates, using BP fine funds and to return the funds to the same BP fine money account upon selling the property.
Commissioners hope to raze the hospital building, clean the site and sell the land with the potential for five-seven single-member dwellings on the property.
The Commission has already changed the zoning for the property to single-family residential.
Commissioners’ aim is to sell the land to a private developer, hoping to recoup cost of razing the building and clearing the site through that sale.
The city of Port St. Joe owns the property, which was leased as a hospital for more than five decades before closing almost a decade ago.
The property has become an eyesore and haven for feral animals, though the city has cleaned the property up several times. The roof in some areas is falling into the building.
The big stumbling block for any entity wishing to do something with the property – say those companies with tax certificates – has been the IRS lien and the cost of razing the building and clearing the site, along with asbestos abatement, the latter of which is estimated to be at least $110,000.
Tentative millage rate
Commissioners set the tentative millage rate at 4.5914, exactly one mill above the current millage.
Taxing bodies must submit a tentative millage rate to the Property Appraiser by Aug. 1. That is the number that will appear on Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices received by mail by taxpayers.
After Aug. 1, that millage can not go up, but can be reduced.
In each of the past five years commissioners have increased the tentative millage up one mill to provide flexibility in budgeting only to return to the same millage by ratification of the budget.
“We’ve always set it higher and we always bring it back down,” said Mayor Mel Magidson. “It is a little game with play (with the state).”